Nothing actually begins the way you have it.

Just the ice cracking over old women who want to get out.

Tell them the rescue crew exploded.

Tell them anything that doesn’t burn your mouth.

Someone once loved me.

Someone else pulled the trigger.

Someone fell down all the stairs in my head.

The beloved arrived without umbrage.

The beloved untangled the river from sun.

Roads grew between my ribs.

All my memories became radioactive.

It became expensive to take up room.

Time, a commodity.

Every language says hello.

This is how to say I’m frightened.

This is how to articulate distrust.

Someone should let the prisoners out.

Someone should sit down with the mother of the sociopath.

Someone should be kind.

The birds became sky confetti that dreams of birds.

My fingers are weaving circles.

A mountain breaks the camel.

A camel becomes sounds.

Now the desert seeks new shadows.

Now the shadow takes drinks into town.

The open-mouth lily calls cloud.

Skins are left for new takers.

Shattered temple lights forget stars.

In most narrations, gods are lost.

In most letters home, the war may end.

Slowly, we know blindness.

Animal sounds after the trap closes.

I promise to pull you from the building first.

To bandage your wounds at the last checkpoint

where we never met.

Every language says farewell.

Tell them we were happy.

That I flew when I should have been swimming.

I miss my breath but not uncertainty.

We did meet before, but you won’t recognize.

Not all kisses carry betrayal.

We have become the sea where the captain drowned,

where his wife waits with a lantern—

anxiety abuts the margins of what we could say.

No one told the phoenix this is fire.

Daedalus, I’m sorry.

Gilgamesh, you tried.

Something has transmogrified.

We were shaking our own deaths with night-lamp fluidity.

Everyone’s pain is personal.

Night ended like a butterfly.

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DIRGE: a ballet for 13 dancers [prelude with cellos]

1 dancer [hazel]

I slept in the Book of the Dead and woke with parchment scrolls blooming tired magnolias from my unhinged mouth.

Lugubrious cellos attempted to climb me back to the mud-encrusted, brick floor–but I panicked.

When my thinking can trace some semblance of surface, I might explain.

Some will pigeonhole verbose.

If I erase, the Dreams of the Dead multiply.

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Monday shuffled the rain’s pages, soggy and spent.

Tuesday threw a lifeline to resurrect dreaming.

After this many days of torrential rain and thunderstorm—

the sun’s image fits in a miniature dollhouse’s tiny white frame.

The velvet masquerade would still occur on Saturday; everyone wearing purple.

I sent away for the starter happiness kit, but my credit card was declined because my brain loses its mooring.

You should dead-bolt your front door—the circus is in town.

I apologize that the long-winded letter I sent burst into flames that I meant to be goldfish-orange lilies—

and also, that my “I’m sorry” email infected your hard drive.

Shit happens, but no one was supposed to bleed on shrill speed.

If it were all a mobïus strip—

people like you couldn’t jump off at craggy cliffs with lost seabirds.

What did I take you for on our high-speed chase in summer with all the windows down?

I could do all our math during any unforeseeable traffic delays while rubbernecking.

I assure you I’m qualified to decorate doubt;

that disillusionment hinges with the clock—

spiritual fatigue when one can‘t find more pills.

Love can’t heal everything—but you won’t see that in your social feed.  

Soldiers lie down to drink desert stars because the poison is way too close.

Not everything can be reassembled with industrial glue.

When you make a mistake, fold it in like a watercolor painting—

just don’t chisel the sculpture down to alabaster dust.

There’s a number to call for that, a hotline for a metaphysical fix.

Later, you can return your beliefs C.O.D.

I’ve grown new enchantment from seed.

If/when, pretend—that what we’re waiting for might be worth the gauze bandages.

What do you expect for a dollar?

The paper is soft like a thin cloth, harboring lilacs.

I lost the lines you were waiting for; spent that money on champagne.

It’s the rain’s fault—its breath on the sunflowers

causing the most-pronounced blurriness—

the fog swallowing airplanes.

The snake in the garage eats its tail in private when no one is home.

If we buy the pontoon boat, we’ll be pleasure-laden—

now that you’re reading this—

now that your focus is realigned with hummingbirds.

Frenetically, their thin wings pump in overdrive to keep emerald bellies afloat.

Somewhere a family mourns their lost vacation by the sea,

the barnacled mussel shells their youngest gathers when the tide leaves for sleep.

Without his compact leather briefcase, a man in a stolen country paces a faded, Persian rug.

Someone in a lost city shrugs that none of this matters.

There’s no grand gesture to end any of it.

Now what?

I wasn’t privy to the memo.

I’m preoccupied, growing new hands to conduct a symphony of tangerine.

There is nothing I know inside.

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Distance throws points pointing to the Subject [of Yellow Feathers].

Lost in the sun—a rogue magician feeds finches from a torn sleeve.

This is where the owl lives at night with baby bats after the crickets and tree frogs’ duet plummets.

In the woods, there are no hands to flutter moonbeams.

In summer sunlight, trees arching under cyan blue are liquid stained-glass.

During late-afternoon brutal heat, the weeping willows drink the pond’s moss surface.

Just out of school for summer, impatient children try to catch tadpoles in butterfly nets.

Camouflaged in the oak’s wishbone trunk, the egret waits for the fish that are thirsty for air to catch the exterior like words.

Scientists claim that without a human cerebral cortex, fish can’t cry, but poets knows that their tears fill the oceans.

Yellow snapdragons are wilting in the garden because we’ve forgotten.

Buddha’s terracotta bowed chin and left ear are eternally injured by winter because we can’t find the proper glue. 

The Knight’s Suitcase of Watches drowns his Doppelganger backwards.

Many times the dying want to let go.

If the debacle had been planned properly, we could still do lunch.

There should be a word for someone who blows up consecutive bridges with one damp match.

Fire can be satisfying like a fact.

When you’re looking in the wrong places, it’s time to stop looking.

Compulsive white lying can alleviate boredom [not to mention major hassles], preempt further questioning, and hone the art of fabrication.   

The recently-widowed old man counts his money in the freezer.

Someone who might be me watches him through binoculars.

This time, it’s best for all subjected parties to become fluent in silence.

No one else needs to review your emotional scorecard.

No one fathoms the song I bleed when I relinquish windows.

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I opened the metaphysical with a can opener.

[The puzzle, magical.]

I don’t want to spoil.

[Delay denied the last dandelions.]

I wrote 87 emails but couldn’t hit SEND.

[Events took place in brackets.]

I felt your face with feathers.

[You are stranger than before.]

Gravity shifts the jaw line.

[The afterlife smells like ghosts.]

Hands pry the mouth.

[We atrophy fatigued metaphors.]

Rumors perforate.

[Burdens design their own pain.]

There were kinetic misunderstandings.

[Twenty seven lighters are ready to go.]

War explains daylight.

[It is your right not to watch.]

Google, an odd life coach.

[Time passes.]

The sculpture breaks my dreams.

[Leading a camel to water doesn’t make you noble.]

I mean everything I don’t remember.

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I wanted to go there but I can’t remember—to be with someone lost in the field of wildflowers—that disappeared when I touched a memory that confused the horizon.

The address of the doctor who promised not to cure me but to hide the symptoms—humanize me—was on a paper I lost when I tried to shuffle the lost bits in order, remove the jokers from the deck—forecast the future with stones.

There was a discombobulation of format—the margins ate what I was trying to explain—those hours that blurred the green of early summer.  

I didn’t mean to ruin your parade of secrets by dislocating the afternoon, burying your toy soldiers in dust after you shrouded each in a beautiful sentence.

I couldn’t remember—the name of the song I wanted to hear on the radio while I drove chasing dusk beyond the tallest pines, rotting barns, and small houses.

Because my brain couldn’t connect the dots it used to—and the notes fell off the page before reaching my mouth, weakened from not speaking—I hinged twilight with a paper bag of confetti, jilted syllables.

My hands cracked even after the singing that couldn’t will away the poison I touched while cutting down the pink and magenta peonies I was to bring someone like you—that wilted in the car while I grocery shopped for silence.

I spotted you in the shadows of your poem—and the day before with your flashlight at night between stanzas—trying to illuminate past the bookends of Sunday to Saturday.

I couldn’t say you were afraid with certainty—with the clarity of one walking to an altar built of believed promises.

The movie I was making to excise unpleasant emotions, offer catharsis—eluded.

It was supposed to be in the far distance of old black and white movies and photographs—but kept jumping into color.

Shades of red—fallen rose petals that filled the screen with silk, the cardinal dead in my hand that bled red even after burial, my misplaced, surfacing exasperation–orange embers that burned past February.

Resilient stigmas imbued the purple of bruises, small violets that grew into dark irises, fading into blunted fuchsia.

I wanted to tell you—we could exchange shoes, hats, faces—in the film of forgetting—for a day, maybe a week—that the disappearance didn’t have to hurt so much—that we’ll float this time instead of drown.

There was a melody that punctuated the soundtrack—what we used to want against dominos falling with civilization’s house of cards—the first thought on the breath defined by dreaming.

Thoughts were tangled in my hair I was afraid to wash—that I would lose myself in a painful refrain; the humbling—an avalanche—beyond any first responders.

It’s been so long without a pen or keyboard—my fingers have gone idle with something like melancholy.

I was meaning to write an explication of the days of invisibility—how I stayed up to save myself from falling.

Nauseated from caffeine, I walked a mile just as the birds began singing to usher daylight—to the blind widow’s house to read her love sonnets—but she didn’t recognize my voice and wouldn’t open the door.

I was on my way somewhere else—somewhere I can’t remember—to join a crowd of bystanders, to blend in and not be the subject anymore—

because some meanings were self-fabricated, embroidered (in) syntax—differential, at best—and it looked like rain.

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Let’s not get into this now—this driverless car that could easily crash that neither of us can afford, this city taxi cab (that will drive too fast near the bicycle lane)—or step into this afternoon of apple-green light, prescient of a tornado, maybe hail

this daydream that keeps playing on repeat in the same colors but different shades (violet, orange, and teal) but lands nowhere—a residue-lassitude of something, some-such—statues of stone (from a lost century) that can’t touch, cold under silver-green olive trees that shade the sun.

It’s not a good idea, this late, to eat a pile of pancakes or pontificate abstractions, touch the abacus beads, unfold the map of forgetting with all its holes, removed pathways between synapses—and the dark proliferates everything; sleep’s arrival can be impatient only at first, and some sentences may be better composed in daylight, pitched to a stranger on a train or in a coffee shop (and you’ll be rewarded for your good behavior).

It might be best not to discuss recent erasures, deletions, omissions, betrayals, tiresome conversations (misrepresentations)—until disturbance doesn’t taint angles of events (spins, interpretations), the war that goes on in the back of your head and elsewhere, a narrative that takes on a trajectory all its own: Hoarder of Lost Things in a Tale of Burning Houses.

On some days, there’s magnificence (inexplicably) in the smallest of spaces at every step, and other days only broken things catch the surface—until there is a spilling of violins that settles night down into purple (evaporating) for night’s black velvet dress beaded with star—and it’s exhilarating to hold up the oval mirror, so the moon can see itself spilling light, a gift to the darkness all its own.

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We were on page 72—cringing as the main character stepped onto the plane, knowing what would happen because of the foreshadowing on page 47. Her fiance would be destroyed in the next chapter, which might require tissues or a walk into the crisp night air.

Living in utterly different worlds, we were trying to collide on a day that was convenient and mild but ended up in the backseat of a taxi with a stranger who also didn’t have an umbrella in the sudden downpour or were passionately kissing the person we had met quite recently, focusing on the person’s name as the driver watched in the rear-view mirror in different movies on the same day.

In the desert, we dreamed of snow; in the blizzard, we wanted the tropics for at least a week or two; the residents of the tropics wanted to follow us home. All that wanting left holes. We were personalized snowflakes cut from parchment taped to somebody’s wall in an office where windows didn’t open.

We were on a boat, on an island, in an alley, an over-crowded temporary shelter, an empty parking lot when the electricity went out—a night dream, nightmare, feeling pleased, frightened, restless, or hungry. There was nothing appealing to eat, only bowls of rice and dry pancakes until we crossed the border in someone else’s dream for a feast that couldn’t be touched.

Parallel lines temporarily—until some of us took a sudden plunge into melancholy while others were able to jump rope through adversity, pay the bills swiftly, ward off anxiety, forget the mass shootings for a while, attend the small dinner party and know what to say, timed perfectly, avoiding topics of politics and religion.

Awkward most of the time, we were throwing darts into black holes to steady ourselves, sending money to charitable organizations or standing in line at the food bank, trying to make conversation with the person standing next to us instead of looking down and feeling stigmatized.

We were watching the sky from a well or an underground city when the tourists found us and sent a rope that some of us had the upper body strength to climb. The rest waited for first responders to perform their magic, sew up wounds, check for internal bleeding, any signs of self-sabotage.

Some of us were living in a melody on an untuned piano, a riff on a guitar missing a string, an aria in Sanskrit or Japanese, beautiful peonies that would last a week, if that, a calming presence, paddling up the river at night, watching the old woman feeding and singing to nervous sparrows, filing our taxes, clipping our nails, sitting in a philosophy class, waiting for Socrates to drink the hemlock, solving equations in other rooms to make the algorithms kind.

We were at a ballet of robots waiting for the intermission to grab a cappuccino, send a text, post photos or short videos of the robots on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter, a meme, a witty observation, yesterday’s sunset, cloud reflections in the glass of skyscrapers, a link to an article about justice being served with a side of fire.

In the middle of a joke waiting for the punchline, uncomfortable with the racial profiling, in the center of a rice paddy or empty field, tilling it for sunflowers to lie down in all that yellow and become something someone else might want, grow into, become.

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The gods and goddesses convened and after much vehement debate, opted that the human world or plateau as they called it, would end on a Monday to give their underlings a last-hurrah weekend though the creatures wouldn’t be privy to the foreknowledge of their impending doom.

It’s best they don’t know, the god of fire chimed in. They’d end the world on their own, go out with a bang and rob me of the finale I’ve been waiting for with my bated breath that would, with the assistance of the goddess of wind, take out every city, one by one. He beamed and chuckled.

It’s much too soon, the goddess of light contended—my work hasn’t been fully realized yet. The earth inhabitants have learned quite a lot. They really try, you know, to learn best practices for cohabitating peacefully, for not destroying what we’ve bequeathed to them. Furthermore, Human Resources has desks piled with troves of applicants to join the Chorus.

I agree, the goddess of hope pronounced. They do really try even though they often lose me. Eventually, they come around and notice all the gifts bestowed upon them, invisible means for getting through everything thrown at them—all that death, disease, destruction, betrayal, selfishness, greed, ugliness, suffering.   

Ignoring the goddesses of light and hope, the leader of the demonic spirits spoke emphatically, We’ll let them have their Monday morning coffee, of course, and take them out on the way to their day jobs that they despise anyway. Some of them will be happy about their hamster-wheel, cubicle-life-grind ending. We’re doing them a favor. He smiled nervously, knowing that his colleagues didn’t believe his seemingly kind-hearted rationale.

It will be easier if we end things before their coffee, the goddess of practicality, consistently pragmatic, asserted. Let them be half asleep, one foot in the dream world.

The god of dreaming piped in, no, that’s not fair—to end their lives with a nightmare. They should go out as peacefully as possible, wrapped in a cocoon of peaceful sleep, dreaming of summer vacations with those they love, swimming at low tide, fantastic star travel.

The sky goddess spoke, which was a surprise to the Chorus, as she was quite shy at large, formal meetings—they look up at me all the time, study my cloud pillows waltzing slowly with the wind goddess, cower when gray and other shades of darkness collect for a storm, that green light before a hurricane. With their necks dipped back, their upturned faces beseech my stars for permanence, steadiness, signs for their awkward travel, for where they began before the god of breath and goddess of being sent them to the god of time.

Afraid of being out of a job, the god of breath, goddess of being, and god of time, who stood together in a triangle, nodded their heads in unison. The god of breath spoke first, we have a contract, you know. The god of time fumbled with his hundred and forty-four pocket watches but said nothing. The goddess of being finally interrupted the awkward silence—we’ll have to reconvene next month, the pizza is here!

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I’d like to return this exquisite bouquet I purchased here a bit over a week ago. As you can see for yourself, all the chartreuse orchids and fuchsia oriental lilies are dead. Here is my crumpled receipt. Sorry about that.

The return for my purchase will have to be applied to THIS debit card since the one you charged just eight days ago—has since been compromised. Yeah, that was a pain, but the bank teller was so very patient and kind.

I’d also appreciate a return of my son’s glow-in-the-dark goldfish, Wally. “He dead,” too. Yeah, that’s how my son announced it yesterday at 6 AM.

In case you’re wondering, we named him after Wallace Stevens. We especially love and read at night—“Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird” and “The Snow Man.” Oh, I can see you’re not charmed. Let’s move on.

Actually—let’s be quiet for a moment. Well, I mean me and not you—since you haven’t acknowledged my presence yet.

Can you hear the foghorn blaring from the coast of Rhode Island over the Long Island Sound? I always wanted to live on an island, in fact, but one without any bridges for car travel in and out. That seems like cheating the inhabitants out of a true island-living experience. But I digress.

Maybe you could turn down the volume on the elevator music and pay attention to the foghorn? A ship might be dying and all the fisher people on board. I’m not sure why you seem so perplexed. It seems I’ve ruffled some feathers underneath your expensive cashmere sweater somewhere that can’t be perceived with the naked, human eye. Aren’t you going to DO something?

While we’re at it—whatever IT/THIS is—I’d like to return this hi-lighter-yellow, tiny bird. It BIT THE DUST at 3 AM this morning to reference the 1980 Queen’s song. Do you know it? Shall I play it for you? I have it right here on my YouTube playlist. Ironically, it might make you crack a smile.

Freddie Mercury is dead, too. His birth name was Farrokh Bulsara, by the way. Most people don’t know that he was born in Zanzibar. Now, that’s a place you don’t often, or really ever, hear about. It sounds like a made-up, fairy-tale, ancient mythological city, no?

That’s how Zanzibar could market itself for more tourist enthusiasm as well as guiding a Freddie Mercury bus tour to his grave, perhaps. Come to think of it, I don’t know where he’s buried. Let’s see—I have a Wikipedia app on my phone.

Oh, he was cremated, but it doesn’t say where his ashes are. Let’s ask Google. I don’t want to be cremated, by the way, do you? I worry that since it took three full days for Jesus to rise from the dead that I might feel the fire singing my flesh and bones. Is that silly? Superstitious? Ignorant? Playing it safe?

I’ll read to you about Freddie Mercury’s ashes because, I have to say, you’re not cutting me off so possibly, you have some interest in our topic at hand or you’re bored here in your empty shop or too lazy or afraid of me to interject—(You can search me. I’m not hoarding any guns or kitchen knives.)

“For two years after his tragic death, Mary [that’s his ex-girlfriend, who stayed his closest friend] kept Freddie’s ashes in his bedroom. Ever since the rumours [British spelling; he’s Persian-English] as to where Freddie’s final resting place is have circulated [that’s a bad sentence grammatically].” Blah, blah, blah. “Some believe he was returned to Zanzibar, while others claim his ashes are buried under a cherry tree in the garden of his London home.” Hunh. That’s interesting.

I’ll now finish off this riveting-to-me subject—He was world-renowned for his “four-octave vocal range” and “died in 1991 from complications of AIDS.” Remember those days of the 80s and 90s when everyone was extra-homophobic and suddenly concerned about the sexual history of potential sexual partners? I wonder if there are statistics on the increase of monogamy during those two decades?

Now we have COVID-19, obviously, and can’t even breathe on a stranger let along have sex. Ahh, a reaction—your left eyebrow moved up. You’re not a robot, after all! I dare say—you’re a human! I’m surprised because beneath your black, COVID-prevention mask, you’re donning a flesh-color ceramic mask, a grand façade, that makes you seem more composed than you are—internally. But—bravo! You’re coping as this complex conundrum continues to unfold into the day we’re in.

Now—back to the subject of death, which brings me here.

I’m not sure if you have any children of your own, sir—but did you know that at the age of three some children start the process of comprehending death? After they learn the word and attach meaning to it, they will point to a puddle with a frog lying belly up and say, “Dead! Mommy! Dead!” as if they’ve just won a prize. And then, the awkward and unanswerable questions follow—“Mommy, when will YOU die? When will I DIE? Does GOD die?”

While I’m here and I’m thinking about it—I might as well return my degenerating body. You know—well, you don’t, but it’s just linguistic filler to punctuate the other more important words—I meant specifically—the degenerating muscles in my neck and back and in my small joints (hands and knees), larger ones (back and hips), too (but the medication promises to help only the small joints). I guess you could say I’m atrophying.

I jotted down this note yesterday when I woke up—Dear doctor, I’m just too busy dying all the time, and I have so much to do. Here is my highly-organized to-do list for today. See? Can’t you do something or write a referral to a different specialist who can?

But you and I, here and now—we’re, essentially, having a one-way conversation about entropy, don’t you think? I’m not sure if you can read me or not, probably the latter, so I will tell you—I’m very nervous and will step out into the cold to clear my head, smoke a cigarette. But first—

Do you know the part in T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land, published in 1922, by the way—the lines:

My nerves are bad to-night. Yes, bad. Stay with me. / Speak to me. Why do you never speak? Speak. / What are you thinking of? What thinking? What? / I never know what you are thinking. Think.

Well, that was fun, but you’re not finding the humor in any of this. I have a dog T.S. Eliot, but I can see even with your slipping ceramic mask, not the COVID one—that you don’t care.

Yeah, I’m stepping out onto the ice outside your shop’s doorway—you really should put down some of that clumped salt that eats away at the ice. You’ll need quite a lot for the ice-skating-rink-parking-lot-situation you’ve got going on.

If you must know, I’m going out to have a cigarette. You’re the second person to know about my “closet”  stress smoking. I refuse to stress eat anymore. See—my favorite winter coat won’t button at my protruding stomach. Sure, I could move the button over, but I’m going to get thinner. Just wait.

While I’m out in front, I hope you’ll follow the proper store protocols for refunding me the cost of the orchids and lilies, my son’s goldfish, and the yellow bird, and my malfunctioning body. Please don’t feign that you need to “call my manager” because I’m well-aware that you own this enchanting store. And don’t worry—well, you don’t seem worried about anything—I don’t waste my brain energy on Yelp reviews, but on second or third thought, maybe I should. I’m really NOT threatening you. So—I’ll leave you to it. So you can FOCUS and all.

I’ve enjoyed this soliloquy immensely. I hope you tell all your friends about the crazy poet who came into your store today and wouldn’t stop talking about death, poetry, and Freddie Mercury. It’s not that I’m lonely or anything, really—was just hoping to volley some ideas a bit—you know, warm up on my instrument, play some scales.

Good day, sir, in case I don’t return for my return. I won’t forget you any time soon.

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